Thursday, 18 May 2017


Weather started off quite cool and cloudy before a veritable heatwave descended (for all of about fifteen minutes...) then the wind picked up and all became cool once more. Despite all this, I had a free day and intended to squarebash the heck outta NG3963 - which I did. Eleven yearticks for the 1000 Species Challenge, two of them being lifers. Plus the usual heapload of pots and tubes filled with everything from lichens to various flies and even a harvestman, all still to be investigated. 

Once again it was the plants (and the insects on them) that dominated the day. First up were a bunch of quite substantial basal leaves that had me confused until I turned them over

Melancholy Thistle - the last (and only) time I saw this was 5 years ago on LEJOG
Soft prickles around the edge of the leaf and the whitish underside are clear indicators of Melancholy Thistle. I've only ever seen this in southern Scotland whilst walking LEJOG five years back, I don't think I've seen it since. Nice to reacquaint myself with it, especially as it is known from nearby tetrads but not this one, that's one more ticked off the 'missing list'. 

I wandered down the hill to the River Conon itself. Water levels are pretty low at the moment. On one 'island' I found an unfamiliar clump of Ranunculus-type leaves. Then another clump with flowerheads just about to open. I knew what this was, it's a plant I've wanted to find for a long time! 

Huge! This is not your average buttercup!
Just look at the size of that flowerhead!
For me, this is a very exciting find and it'll look a bazillion times better next week when those huge sepals reflex backwards and the petals unfurl. This is the fantastically named Globeflower and something I've never seen before. I'm just a little bit thrilled! The last time I looked for this plant I was halfway up Ben Lawers on yet another doomed Mountain Ringlet quest and that was three years ago now. I got the butterfly eventually (on the third daytripped attempt from Southampton in less than a fortnight...just think about that for a moment...) Actually, sod thinking about it - you can read about it right here

I was pretty stoked at jamming into Globeflower, I'll doubtless be back here innumerable times throughout its flowering period so expect to see some more plant porn in the near future! Talking of plant porn, the local clumps of comfrey have begun flowering and have, as expected, proved to be Russian Comfrey Symphytum x uplandicum which occurs across various parts of Skye. It's entirely new for this tetrad though.

Russian Comfrey, the fertile hybrid between Common and Rough Comfreys
In the woods the Hawthorn is in full blossom. I gave it a good few whacks but there were only a few pollen beetles and a bunch of tiny flies to show for my efforts. I'm determined to add a new longhorn beetle to the island's paltry list (currently consisting of Rhagium mordax and Rhagium bifasciatum) and hawthorn blossom is an obvious starting place. Though not today. Also looking rather fine were the pathside verges full of Cow Parsley

Exciting habbo - there should be all sorts of beetles, bugs and flies in there!
Note the dock leaves in the foreground? Well apart from hosting several microfungi of interest they also host insect life, both on the leaves and within them

Something's been nibbling those leaves!
Gastrophysa viridula - the Green Dock Beetle - guilty on all charges!
Meanwhile, inside the leaf...

See that blemish on the leaf? That's a flymine
Same mine held up against the light - larva is at the very top of the frass pile
There are several possibilities as to species involved. It's probably a Pegomya but there are at least three species that mine in Rumex. My own thoughts are that it will be Pegomya haemorrhoum but without rearing it through that's pure supposition. Either which way it'll be new for Skye (and potentially Scotland) so I shall endeavour to persevere.

Back in the undergrowth I found lots of Nettle Tap Moths Anthophila fabriciana, presumably quite widespread here on Skye but seemingly massively under-recorded. There's a hardcore group of maybe less than 15 moffers here on Skye and only 2 or 3 of those record the micros. In fact I may be the only person day-recording the microleps on Skye! As an aside I also found five Gracillaria syringella and a few Epinotia immundana settled on vegetation. 

Admittedly this isn't the best pic of a Nettle Tap that you'll find online
I spotted a well gnawed Sycamore leaf and soon tracked down the culprit, though figuring out who it was took a bit of effort

Note the conical structures on the 11th segment - cool huh?
This is the caterpillar of Feathered Thorn Colotois pennaria, deduced after a couple of hours worth of checking online sites and asking for help on FB. I still feel it looks a bit too pale, but seemingly this falls within the given ranges, plus it's a fairy common moff here on Skye.

Staying with leaves for the moment, I couldn't fail to see these leafmines all over a young Beech sapling. I initially thought I was looking at Stigmella hemargyrella mines, before realising that these mines were quite different. It wasn't until I was back indoors and checked online that I realised what they actually were.

Coleopterous not lepidopterous!
Young mine still en route to the edge of the leaf
These mines belong to the weevil Orchestes fagi (Fagus being Beech, hence "the Orchestes to be found on Beech". Apt). I took three leaves home with me and checked the larva under a handlens. Yep, quite definitely not a Stigmella! There's a nice link to the species here. This proved to be my second lifer of the day after the awesome Globeflower.

In other news I somehow managed a half-decent shot of Clausilia bidentata

Clausilia bidentata - I don't often find these out of their shells
And beneath a log I found this stunner

Megabunus diadema - sexiest harvestman in the world? Yeah, I reckon so too
I finally managed to add Norway Maple to the tally after seeing the dropped leaves when I first came here in November of last year. This sapling is very obviously self-seeded rather than a planted tree and is also new to the tetrad.

Norway Maple - puts me on 589 species for NG3963 this year


  1. Nemastoma for me, although what's not to like about the Megabunus. You should be aiming for 650 end of May! Also bloody longhorns! I have seen one (not one species - one SPECIMEN of Rhagium bifasciatum). Better go and give the hawthorns a good once/twice over at lunchtime. Loving the globeflower

    1. Nemastoma is alright I guess, but does it have mascara-laden eyelashes and swanky swirls daubed all over its body? That's the reason it's called MEGAbunus and not just Bunus (honest guv...)

  2. ps, that looks suspiciously like Homalothecium sericeum with the toothy snail (let's see if Paul agrees!)

    1. Green shizzle. That's sooooo last winter :)

  3. Good snail! I am always pleased to see Globeflower though it is widespread on Skye from sea-level to high up in the hills. Curiously, like Galium boreale and Saxifraga oppositifolia, it has never been recorded from Raasay. In the case of Sax opp Raasay may just not have the altitude to maintain populations (which could then spread down to sea level as on Skye)but the other two remain surprising. Keep up the good work!

  4. And another thing.... Longhorn beetles. I once had Hylotrupes bajulus on Raasay (first record for Hebrides). It emerged in my garage from old wood that had been in Raasay Primary School for many years. It is not on NBN because it is part of Richard Moore's dataset of Raasay beetles which I had persuaded him to convert to a usable form for import into HBRG and thence NBN. When he died, I had hoped to recover his entire dataset. I am however giving up hope of that happening so I need to go back and at least extract the records of things I found for him... Not till next winter, now. Otherwise his only longhorns on Raasay were the two Rhagium spp. you mention. Cheers. S

    1. 2009 according to his book if that helps... the two Rhagium have both been recorded on Skye, Raasay, Tiree, Coll, Colonsay and Islay with mordax also being recorded from Jura. I'm amazed there aren't more longhorns up here. Beetles and moths.

  5. Yes, thanks. I know the date I gave him the specimen but not the exact date of capture. However, I do know the grid reference of my garage!